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–Ryan Torrens is the only Democrat who has announced a 2018 campaign for Florida Attorney General so far.
-Torrens is a lawyer from Tampa, who is only 32 years old.
-He said in a wide ranging interview with RISE NEWS, that he wants to roll back what he views as a politicized AG’s office. He also had harsh words for the current AG, Pam Bondi.
-Torrens has been barnstorming around the state, meeting with donors and building grassroots support for his campaign. He talked to RISE NEWS at length about his views on the most pressing issues of the day during a campaign swing through South Florida.
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About the AuthorRich Robinson is the CEO and publisher of Rise News. He is also a journalist and a native of Miami. Robinson graduated from the University of Alabama and can be followed on Twitter @RichRobMiami.
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The Afghan Taliban have released an audio message purportedly from their leader dismissing claims that he was killed in a gunfight during a gathering of several Taliban figures in Pakistan. In a 16-minute message released on Saturday, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor advised his followers not to pay attention to rumours, describing them as “propaganda”. “I have recorded… Read MorePost Views: 348
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By John Massey
The highlight of the party’s platform is the desire to hold a referendum on Hong Kong’s autonomy prior to 2047. It is a revolutionary desire in the eyes of the Chinese government and many pro Chinese political figures in Hong Kong.
When RISE NEWS learned about the creation of Demosistō, we reached out to them in order to share their story.
After all, they are some of the most politically influential millennials that the world has seen.
She is also a second year student at Hong Kong Baptist University, studying politics.
Chow first became involved in Hong Kong politics in 2012, after being exposed to Scholarism via Facebook.
The group was founded in opposition to the highly controversial Moral and National Education Curriculum, which was claimed by opponents to be pro Communist Party of China (CPC) brainwashing.
One of the more compelling pieces of evidence to this claim is one of the key seven priorities of the curriculum being “National Identity“, which is to say an identity indistinct from that of mainland China.
Scholarism, and its allied groups were ultimately successful in defeating the Moral and National Education Curriculum, but also in demonstrating that a grassroots movement of millennials in Hong Kong can make political change.
However, Scholarism’s next big outing, as well as other liberal organizations, proved even larger than the opposition to the Moral and National Education Curriculum.
The Umbrella Movement was a mass protest spanning several months in Hong Kong. Thousands of protesters gathered in opposition to constitutional reform imposed by the National People’s Congress (NPCSC). These reforms give a nominating committee, with purportedly strong ties to the CPC, the authority to pre-select a handful of candidates prior to a territory wide election.
The “suffrage” presented by Beijing outraged a tremendous number of Hong Kongers, and in particular, large swaths of young people, many of whom were in secondary school.
In particular the student group Scholarism was the centerpiece of what little international media attention was put on the Umbrella Movement. It was largely out of the ranks of Scholarism that Demosistō emerged.
However, size of opposition did not prove decisive in the Umbrella Movement, as the ultimate objective of the protesters was thwarted.
When asked if the three month event was a failure, Chow told RISE in a Skype interview;
“in terms of political goals, i think it was a failure, but it also had lots of influence on people’s minds.”
Indeed, there is something to be said of the conditions being created in which a handful of university students can exercise a considerable degree of influence in politics.
To those familiar with the Occupy Movement in the United States, the idea of using the political capital gained through the Umbrella Movement to work within a broken system may seem strange or counter intuitive.
“It is difficult to fight some things through the Parliament, or through the Legislative Council, and while I can understand these kinds of feelings, because in our legislative council now half of our council is not democratically elected, because of the Functional Constituency,” Chow said. “I still believe we can enter the Legislative Council, we can do something… because our aim is to not just work within the Council.
“Through the election we want to promote our ideas to more people. What we have to do is connect the Legislative Council and the Civil Society outside.”
The intentions of Demosistō and other liberal actors within Hong Kong has not gone unnoticed.
Earlier this year, Chow brought attention to the abduction of a man selling books that criticized the Communist party, or were otherwise banned in Mainland China.
Chow has also had the shadow of the CPC come upon her as well.
Limits on withdrawals were placed on her bank account which was intended to be used to accept donations on behalf of Demosistō, as they have thus far been unable to register as a company.
This has resulted in Demosistō relying on crowdfunding via Paypal.
We are currently experiencing sudden issues concerning Agnes Chow's bank account. Latest updates at: https://t.co/AvtNfQV80u
— Demosistō 香港眾志 (@demosisto) April 11, 2016
Chow was more concerned with Demosistō’s hurdles in registering as a company. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t like this very much.
” In Hong Kong we do not have the legislation for political parties,” Chow said. “They all have to register as a company instead.”
These financial problems likely do not improve Demosistō’s opinion of the Hong Kong establishment.
” Of course the government and the companies will not support us, because we are opposing the government, and the business sectors are also always standing on the government’s side,” Chow said. “They have to cooperate with the Chinese side.”
Demosistō then will be relying on their proven ability to utilize grassroots tactics to gain wins in the Legislative Council, especially students, but not exclusively.
“We have involved a professor teaching in one of the arts schools… We believe that the new political party, because it’s not a student’ s organization anymore, and it’s important for us to involve more people from the older generations.”
She also notes that for future plans, the party will:
“Try to recruit them [volunteers], through our website, and different forums, and public locations we will try to send our message to Hong Kong People, and hope that they can join us later on.”
Spreading the message of a referendum on Hong Kong’s self determination by 2047, the year the Sino-British Joint Declaration expires, is the clear center piece of Demosistō’s platform, but is far from the only position taken.
Scholarism was deemed ill fitting for elevation to Demosistō’s status as a political party in part due to a lack of political cohesion, according to Chow.
Demosistō heavily invests in individualist language to describe their proposed policies, broken down into the ” Four Selves” :Self Initiating, Self Standing, Self Autonomy, and finally Self Determination. These are intended as steps over a ten year period.
” Self Determination does not mean dissolution of the Social Problems in Hong Kong”
” Even after self determination we still have lots of: education problems, housing problems, property hegemony, etc,” Chow said. “We still have a lot of problems to solve before the self determination of Hong Kong. Resources such as food and water heavily rely on the supply of the mainland China. No matter if it was an independent country or a city under a country, it has to have self sufficiency.”
Not only does Demosistō insist on self sufficiency for the city of Hong Kong, but also an advancement of Hong Kong’s unique identity.
” It is also important to build up the identity of Hong Kong People, so we propose a Hong Kong History subject be implemented,” Chow said in the interview. “Hong Kong people do not really know much about Hong Kong history; in our education system there are only World History and Chinese History.”
This idea of an independent Hong Kong identity seems pivotal in the dispute between Hong Kong and Beijing. As previously noted, establishing a national identity was one of the objectives of the Moral and National Education Curriculum.
Beijing specifically does not want there to be any distinction between China and Hong Kong, and may be trying to begin laying the groundwork for 2047, and end this “salutary neglect” like relationship.
Chow concluded our chat by telling us about her vision of Hong Kong’s identity, saying;
“For me, the identity of Hong Kong people, or the characteristic of Hong Kong, is diversity. We have lots of different kinds of people, who believe in different core values, who came from different countries, who are different races, etc. It’s very important to emphasize the diversity, and not to exclude the others who disagree with us.”
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.
Cover Photo Credit: Agnes Chow Ting/ FacebookPost Views: 482
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By Courtney Anderson
Students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have had a whirlwind of a academic year.
In between talks of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plans and the sexual assault lawsuit that was filed against the university, the school has also been dealing with Tennessee legislators and their feelings about the diversity programs.
It is a conflict that lasted throughout the entire 2015-2016 academic year and finally came to a head this May.
The conflict began on August 26, 2015 when the Office of Diversity and Inclusion posted an article written by the director of the Pride Center, Donna Braquet, on its website.
In the article, Braquet talked about gender identity and gender-neutral pronouns students, faculty and staff could incorporate into their everyday language. And while the post was innocent enough, many conservatives did not find it helpful.
On August 28, 2015, Fox News commentator Todd Starnes posted a piece about the article on his opinion blog. Starnes discouraged the use of gender-neutral pronouns and made fun of the University for having the post on one of its websites.
“Anything goes for the sake of inclusivity, right?” Starnes wrote.
The post then got the attention of Tennessee lawmakers who, like Starnes, felt that the post was unnecessary and posed a threat to “traditional” values.
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The Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion, Rickey Hall, was heavily criticized, as was Braquet and the Pride Center.
Soon after, the post was removed from the website while Hall was on vacation.
Fast forward to December 2015.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion posted a notice on its website reminding faculty and staff to keep holiday parties non-religious.
Specifically, they were asked to make sure “your holiday parties aren’t just Christmas parties in disguise.”
They were discouraged from incorporating religious symbols and encouraged to bear in mind that Christmas is not the only holiday to occur in the month of December.
Tennessee lawmakers did not like this advice at all.
Many of them, such as Rep. Jimmy Duncan and Rep. Martin Daniel, called them an attack on Christmas and Christianity. Duncan was one of the lawmakers to demand that Hall be fired and Cheek resign.
“Chancellor Cheek called me today and he was very apologetic over this matter. He told me that he is planning to take action within the next week,” Duncan wrote in a Facebook post. “I think the one who should be fired is the one responsible for this, Rickey Hall, the Vice Chancellor brought in here from Minnesota to run this office.”
Students at UT Knoxville fought back.
They rallied in support of Hall and demanded that Tennessee lawmakers recognize that diversity is a major aspect of successful colleges and universities.
Thus, the hashtag #UTDiversityMatters was born.
On December 8, 2015: a disastrous press conference was held.
Students held a sit-in in Cheek’s office to show their support for Hall.
Cheek and Hall were to meet students in Cheek’s office at 3:30 p.m. to address them and the press. Instead, they gave an exclusive interview to only a couple local Knoxville news stations on the third floor of Andy Holt Tower, the building where both of their offices are located. Students discovered this and rushed to meet their administrators.
Afterwards, Cheek and Hall walked to the Communications building, room 321, to finally address the rest of the press and the students who had been waiting. I
n the meantime, it was revealed by the Knoxville News Sentinel that Hall had been “counseled” and that he would no longer have control of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website. Control of the site was given to the Vice Chancellor for Communications, Margie Nichols.
Winter break came and news died down.
On January 20, 2016, a few weeks after the start of the spring semester, a bill that would strip the Office of Diversity and Inclusion of state funding was introduced. Students immediately began taking action.
The UT Diversity Matters Coalition was officially formed and began having meetings with administration, including Cheek and Hall, about the future of the diversity programs at the school. Meanwhile, in early February, Nichols announced that she was retiring.
Things took a sour turn for diversity at UT Knoxville on March 2, when the senate voted to strip state funding.
Three days later, nearly 150 students wore black and staged a walkout of a basketball game. Throughout the month of March, the coalition continued to meet with administration.
And in April, the Tennessee House also voted to strip state funding.
On April 19, the coalition and nearly 500 students staged a mass class exit in protest of the funding cuts. During the protest, students staged a die-in on the Pedestrian Walkway, one of the busiest pathways on campus.
The following day, the coalition had their final meeting with administration. And while some of the demands were met or otherwise discussed, many of the demands were met with “No’s” from the administration.
A month later, on May 19, the University of Washington announced that Hall accepted a position as its new vice president of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity and chief diversity officer. Hall will start his position on August 1, 2016.
The following day, on May 20, Governor Bill Haslam allowed the bill to become law without his signature. The Pride Center was immediately shut down, Braquet was fired and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was disbanded.
Thomas Tran, UT student and a member of the coalition, was one of the students to speak at the rally. Since the end of the semester, he has consistently spoken out against Tennessee lawmakers’ actions and administrations’ lack of action.
“We have been doing everything ‘the right way,’” Tran said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “We’ve voted. We’ve called legislators. We’ve had meetings with admin. We’ve built broad base support with the student body. And this is how admin pays us back.”
The Pride Center, which administration announced will be converted into “student organization” is being run by students known as “Pride Ambassadors.” Without administrative support or funding, they are on their own.
“We have been told that we have to fend for ourselves,” a post on the Pride Center Facebook page reads. “We, who have been targeted, and harassed, and scapegoated for an entire year, have been cast aside. We have been offered up as sacrifice.”
Students have not given up.
Members of the UT Diversity Matters Coalition have promised to continue fighting for diversity at UT Knoxville. Johnathan DeWitt Clayton, a UT student and member of the coalition, said it best in a Facebook status.
“This isn’t any one issue, but rather an issue of systematic oppression and erasure, one that the university as a whole is refusing to acknowledge, let alone combat,” Clayton wrote. “But we’re here. We’re not leaving. And we won’t let you silence us anymore.”
Cover Photo Credit: Courtney AndersonPost Views: 594
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